Chapter 143:

The Tancred Detective Agency (And Daycare Center) 1

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

‘Tancred Detective Agency’ was written plainly on a neon sign outside a tall and narrow building, and Hal and Odell spotted it in no time. Still, they stopped a moment. Under the glowing sign was a second that added ‘And Daycare Center,’ which had been handwritten on cardboard.

“We waste time; let’s enter,” Hal said with a shake of his head. He pushed open an old wooden door, and the duo was immediately greeted with the shouts of children in the distance. From the front doorway, there was a long hallway and a staircase. A sign pointed down the hall to indicate ‘daycare,’ and a sign pointed up the stairs to indicate ‘detective.’

Hal and Odell did not waste a moment to ascend the stairs. The shouts quieted as they went up, and they soon reached a single door with tinted glass. Hal looked around a moment to check the surroundings, and Odell carelessly knocked.

‘It’s unlocked!’ a voice came from inside.

The duo entered a stereotypical detective office. A single desk with chairs sat at the end of the room in front of a window with blinds. Filing cabinets took up much of the wall space, and a giant corkboard had many papers and strings pinned on it.

There were two figures in the room. The first was a Zenotote girl with a pink head and blue limbs. She wore a red and white dress and had a matching top hat covering the scales on her head. In her hands, she held a broom used only moments before the duo entered.

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” the pink and blue Zenotote asked. It was clear to the duo that her voice had been the one to invite them in.

“Don’t bother, Rym,” A shout came from the figure at the desk. A Bentulousian man sat in the chair. “It’s abundantly clear why these two are here today,” he added. The man was short, a feature of Bentulousian males, and covered in dark grey fur. From his chin, a long beard ran to his shoulders, and a pair of goggles seemed to enlarge his blue eyes. A purple outfit that looked like it would be in place on any stereotypical detective covered his body.

Rym rolled her slitted eyes.

“Surely you can’t know who they are?” she asked in an exhausted tone that suggested she’d repeated the line many times.

“Odell Fio, the Son of King Jasper Fio, an old friend of mine. He is accompanied by Hal Bloodmurder, an up-and-coming Netzian soldier. And don’t call me Shirley!” the short Bentulousian answered with a smug look.

Rym sighed and shook her head.

“Your last name is Bloodmurder?” Odell whispered to Hal.

“The details are not something you are privy to,” the green-haired Netzian replied with a red face. He had come up with the last name as a small child on the streets as a ‘scary’ way to intimidate the adults. Unfortunately for him, Feya took it seriously and put it on official documents for him and his sisters. The latter of which constantly pestered him about it.

“As for why you are here,” The grey Bentulousian continued, “It is a simple matter to deduce. Rumors have been going around town that the beauideal Dia Mond assassinated the king of Aquia. Then, an injured Hobusian soldier shows up at my door!”

“An injured soldier?” Odell asked, but the short Bentulousian continued.

“It is clear that the two of you, and perhaps more, were dispatched to track down the killer and bring a grand conspiracy into the light!” the Bentulousian finished while jumping to a standing position on his chair and pointing to the duo.

“Tancred…” Rym muttered under her breath as she pressed a clawed hand to her head, similar to when one has a headache.

Odell pulled out the letter and handed it to the strange Bentulousian.

“So, anyway. My dad wanted me to give you this letter… and some lady on the street wanted to slap you as a message.”

“Ah, Lilly, sounds like she’s doing well,” the short Bentulousian said with a nod before he quickly snacked the letter and pulled it open. His eyes darted back and forth. As he read, his face turned sour, and his hand clenched tightly on the note. “Have you seen the contents of this letter?” the short Bentulousian asked after a moment.

“No, and my Dad said nothing,” Odell confirmed.

Tancred said nothing and proceeded to rip the letter. He tossed the scraps like confetti and smacked his palms together like he was knocking off dust.

“Don’t throw it on the floor!” Rym shouted in an exasperated voice as she banged the broom to draw eyes on it.

“Not to worry, the maid can clean it up!” Tancred said with a smile as he jumped out of his chair. He was instantly shorter than his desk, and only the sounds of his footsteps confirmed he was walking around.

“We don’t have a maid! You fired her!” Rym pleaded.

“Ah yes, I forgot she was a spy,” the short Bentulousian confirmed as he emerged from behind the desk. He held his hands behind his back and nodded.

“She wasn’t a–“ Rym began, but her words were ignored. Tancred walked across the room to Odell and Hal. Both looked down to see the short figure in front of them.

“Listen close, boys,” the short Bentulousian said with confidence. Odell knelt to listen; Hal crossed his arms and rolled his eyes, “my old friend Jasper Fio has made quite a claim and request. I can’t share most of the details on my honor as a great detective, but I will share what I can.”

Tancred looked between his guests to make sure they continued to listen. When he was sure he had the attention of Hal and Odell, he continued:

“In short, that old king thinks that the beauideal Dia was hired specifically to cause reasonable suspicion on Nun’s mayor. I knew as much from our injured guest; what I didn’t know was how deep old Jasper thought the conspiracy ran.” Tancred shook his head. “He has asked me to investigate the deep underbelly of this city to uncover the truth.”

“What truth?” Hal said in an annoyed tone. The short Bentulousian only shook his head once again.

“I can’t say with certainty what we may find which could be called ‘truth,’ but the journey to reach it will be difficult. We must clear the mayor’s name and shine a light on the true villains!” Tancred added.

Odell nodded along, and Hal sighed.

“Why don’t I call my sister? She works for the mayor.” Rym asked. “If we need to clear a name, we can just meet with him and ask.”

“I am afraid that will not work. If there truly is a conspiracy that runs up to the heights of the mayoral office, we will need to keep the true nature of our search secret! Our Hobusian friend downstairs already suffered heavy injuries for getting too close. We must assume that the enemy is waiting with a rifle to fire upon anyone who might speak too much about them!”

Rym was about to complain about Tancred’s over-exaggeration, but a knock at the door caught the attention of everyone. Odell almost jumped in shock, and Hal found himself reaching into his ability space for a weapon. Tancred laughed, and Rym grumbled to herself as she swept up the torn-up letter.

“Relax, young boys, our Hobusian soldier simply wants a word,” he said to the jumpy duo.